Hindu religion is one of the oldest regions of the world and full of rituals. Some are so beautiful and some are seen to be meaningless. Some rituals lost their acceptance within the course of time or having no logical value. But some are followed age after age due to its necessity of purity or maintaining logical value. By this way, Hindu wedding is also romantic by the sense of interesting customs. It is not only the way of making a family mingling two hands with each other with the presence of society rather it is the system of bringing peace and prosperity among two innocent lives along with their relative. So any postmodern boy or girl may demand that they are not bound to abide their old customs of Hinduism but became very ritualistic during their wedding so that their new life may be full of heavenly pleasure.
Wearing Shakha, Poula or Bangles during wedding is one of the oldest rituals of Hinduism and still it is popular. Some are ahead of thinking it is a sign of modern fashion. The Bengali bride like any other bride is given utmost importance and looks surreal in her red wedding attire and traditional get up. There are many unique rituals and accessories that a Bengali bride adorns as a part of her culture and heritage.
The identity of every Hindu bride
It is mandatory for newly wed brides and would-be-brides to wear shakha and bangles made of conch-shell, glass, gold or other metals as they signify the long life of the husband. They signify good fortune and prosperity. Traditionally breaking of the bridal shakha, glass or lac bangles is considered inauspicious.
Bangles, over time have become much trendier to suit a more contemporary look, but they are still as significant as they were millennia ago. Bangles with geometric designs give them a funky look, however, for traditional ceremonies only circular glass or metal bangles are preferred. People in different parts of the country call them by different names. But, they have equal importance in Bangladesh and Indian wedding tradition, notwithstanding the geographical boundaries.
Traditional significance of bangles and shakha or poula
Every region has a separate set of rituals that are associated with bangles and shakha. Would-be-brides wear the smallest possible bangles, shakha and poula with the help of oil. This signifies that her married life would be full of love and affection. For Bangladeshi and Indian women, bangles, shakha and poula are not just mere ornaments. It is a tradition to wear bangles and shakha after marriage for the sake of health, luck and prosperity. Bangles and shakha are more than accessories for Indian and Bangladeshi hindu women. They are a part of their identity.
According to me, this custom is another golden page of a married life. Shakha&poula are nature’s blessing to the married woman. It’s a naturally made shell just needs to be carved with care & patience. The Shakha though seems to be firm may get brittle if handled carelessly. Similarly in a married life, the bride needs to make sure that she fulfills her responsibility without losing her charm, sensitivity & morals accompanied with auspicious thinking. It’s not mere a decor item but it’s a proud for a married woman. Traditionally whenever a married woman applied vermilion/sindur on her forehead as a symbol of being married she also applies a little vermillion on the left shakha. Though nowadays Shakha&poula are quite expensive & not that cheap as it was before but still this wonderful tradition goes on without any hindrance.
Bengalis don’t have a concept of the Mangalsutra or Black thread (NallaPusa). They have the Shakha and Paula which tells others that a woman is married along with sindoor. In case, of death of the husband, a close relative has to break those two bangles with some rock near the funeral. That trend is fast changing now. Modern Bengali women rarely wear it anymore.
Symbols are powerful expressions of human culture. They are imparted various implications by the people .Inherently, symbols do not carry any meaning. Culture is not stagnant. It is transformed with time, space and need. Culture is imbibed through direct instruction or through observation, imitation as well as adaptation. Continuous socialization makes the individual internalize the thoughts. Many a people accept the rituals without reasoning. Bengali women wear certain symbols of marriage, like shakha, pola, loha and sindoor. Shakha are white bangles of conch-shell and poula are red bangles made of red corals. Shakha and pola are worn in both the hands. It is to be seen that within one year of the marriage, they do not break. If anything of that sort happens, it is not considered good omen for the married life of the bride. Loha is a bangle made of iron. It is worn only in the left hand. It may or may not be covered by gold. Sindoor is vermilion which is applied on the parting of the hair. Usage of sindoor by a woman implies that she is already married. All these are symbols of marriage for Hindu Bengali women. Many believe that wearing these could ward off bad omens all these symbols of marriage are worn by women only.
On the morning of the marriage day, the mother of the bride presents the shakha and the pola to the bride and she wears them. Sindoor is smeared on the parting of the bride by the bridegroom, during the marriage ceremony. The loha bangle is gifted by the mother-in-law to the bride when she enters her new home. In these changing times, we find that women of Bengali Hindu families still prefer to go along the tradition of wearing shaka, pola, loha and sindoor. Those who conduct marriage in a sacramental manner do follow this ritual of using symbols of marriage. Those who go for legal marriage as per official registration rule may or may not follow this norm. Nowadays, many women prefer not to wear shakha, pola bangles or wear them as parts of accessories when they match with their dresses or in occasions when they have to dress in traditional attire. The loha or the iron bangle may be coated with gold and is used as an everyday accessory. Many Hindu Bengali women may give up wearing shakha and pola bangles. They may stop using sindoor in the parting of the head. But, usually, they do wear the iron bangle. These bangles have become jewellery items, which are found in several designs. So following rituals are not mere customs only rather it demands deep meaning too. Whether you live within a rich or glamorous society, you must follow the symbol of customs not for the sake of religion rather it is the symbol of purity and love which is most important to lead a meaningful life.